From Wanda's Desk: It's Business, It's Not Personal. It's ALSO Personal.

In the fall of 2017, I decided to do something unprecedented for my interior design firm.  I scheduled a month off.  Though it took a little juggling to make it happen, I sat down with the calendar and began blocking off the days.  I was at a carry-over point of a large project and had just stepped into a long-distance remodel, where both clients agreed to wait for my return, among a few other project inquiries.  It was both liberating and anxiety-ridden.  You see, it’s been a very long span since I’ve taken off any real length of time, much less a whole four weeks!  Though we’ve had the typical holiday closings, there was always a place to be or I used it as time to play catch-up on projects when they had begun to overlap.  I came back not at all rested or enthusiastic about diving back into creative mode.  It began to feel more like production mode.  Not my happy place!

  This is one of my happy place images.  An event where we were charged to create a uniquely individual setting.  One of my favorite collaborators and decorative artists, Whitney Preslar, brought my vision to light by hand-painting the mirrored chargers and the table cloth.  My vintage china was a starting point.  The love of flowers and gardening was infused in the setting with arrangements by David Wynn of Elizabeth House Flowers.  Photography by Chanda Pope.

This is one of my happy place images.  An event where we were charged to create a uniquely individual setting.  One of my favorite collaborators and decorative artists, Whitney Preslar, brought my vision to light by hand-painting the mirrored chargers and the table cloth.  My vintage china was a starting point.  The love of flowers and gardening was infused in the setting with arrangements by David Wynn of Elizabeth House Flowers.  Photography by Chanda Pope.

I had read about how burn-out impacts many creatives and/or small business owners.   Some colleagues shared their personal stories of hitting the wall.  Being determined not to become a statistic, I knew this break would bring a vital advantage for my company, moving into 2018. (Okay, mainly for the head chef and bottle washer, who has been at this for over twenty years.)   Still, I wondered if clients or potential clients would understand and be supportive.

  Another happy image!  A long-time client helped her daughter update her first home, a quaint townhouse in Charlotte.  We totally gutted and remodeled the kitchen, among other areas.  The inspiration began with her collection of Fiestaware in all of her favorite colors.  We had to be smart about storage.  On photoshoot day, my client's granddaughter happened to be present and as you can see, she became a darling part of the feature.  I ended 2017 helping my client move into a new home, closer to this now much taller young lady and her sister, as well as her daughter who has since gotten married and had her own wee one.  Yes, we did eat the cupcakes, afterwards!  Deb's Sweet Cakes makes the best and many of my clients now go to her.  (Photography by Whitney Gray) 

Another happy image!  A long-time client helped her daughter update her first home, a quaint townhouse in Charlotte.  We totally gutted and remodeled the kitchen, among other areas.  The inspiration began with her collection of Fiestaware in all of her favorite colors.  We had to be smart about storage.  On photoshoot day, my client's granddaughter happened to be present and as you can see, she became a darling part of the feature.  I ended 2017 helping my client move into a new home, closer to this now much taller young lady and her sister, as well as her daughter who has since gotten married and had her own wee one.  Yes, we did eat the cupcakes, afterwards!  Deb's Sweet Cakes makes the best and many of my clients now go to her.  (Photography by Whitney Gray) 

Interior designers, unbeknownst to what may be portrayed in perfect worlds of Instagram, TV shows, or from general perception, do way more than produce “pretty”.  I’m as guilty as the next of wanting to showcase everything beautiful, because it is my intention to make a positive impact in how people can live in their homes.  Let me tell you, though, just as in life, it rarely begins in picture-perfect mode.  That’s why I’m called in - The interior fixer, counselor, organizer, solution-finder, make-it-happen, renovator of homes and of life/spaces.  Depending on what is needed, I wear a lot of hats.  It was time to put some of them away and to decide the ones to keep - the ones I’ve enjoyed wearing more often.  Of course, there's always a new style or two to try.  As we evolve into different life stages, so does our work and the meaning it holds as we seek the best fit.

  More happy photos?  But of course!  When clients are open to pushing beyond a comfort zone with statement pieces, like this chandelier from Currey & Company, knowing it will elevate their design to a new level, my heart dances!  This one almost didn't make the cut, not because of the style, but exposed bulbs would have given one of them migraines.  We rose to the challenge with silk-wrapped, candle bulbs and by adding a dimmer switch.  One of my favorite dining rooms, ever!  We were also honored to have this room published in Charlotte Home + Garden Magazine, March 2017.  (Photography by Dustin Peck)

More happy photos?  But of course!  When clients are open to pushing beyond a comfort zone with statement pieces, like this chandelier from Currey & Company, knowing it will elevate their design to a new level, my heart dances!  This one almost didn't make the cut, not because of the style, but exposed bulbs would have given one of them migraines.  We rose to the challenge with silk-wrapped, candle bulbs and by adding a dimmer switch.  One of my favorite dining rooms, ever!  We were also honored to have this room published in Charlotte Home + Garden Magazine, March 2017.  (Photography by Dustin Peck)

Today, as I’m getting ready for reentry into my new year, albeit a few weeks later than others,  I don’t know that I have all of the answers, but I’ve come to some epiphanies , both small and large.  I’ll be writing about a few, in between some design posts, because I realize writing for this blog can be both about business and personal.  

Which brings me to:

Interior design is a business.  Money is a big topic, sometimes even over and above a design.  Project management and organization are key elements.  Design tools are necessary.  Results are expected to be delivered.  Overhead and business expenses are not an afterthought.  Profitability keeps us sustainable.   We have a plan.

Interior design is also personal.  It may sound lofty but lives are impacted daily by it.  How one lives and works in their spaces.  How they function.  If it’s healthy.  If it invigorates.  If it soothes.  If it’s productive.  And that’s totally subjective to each and every individual.  Design is about relationships.  We work in your homes, amongst you and your families, and sometimes friends.  We work with a team.  We form loyalties.   We believe in human connection. 

  I love pieces with a history.  And I love having a history with whom I work.  Before these clients relocated, we finished a guest bedroom by marrying some vintage and new pieces.  This chair is one of a pair I found in one of my special "no-tell" spots.  (Yes, it's sacred time for designers to curate and develop trades sources.)  These happened to come from a well-known family estate and were covered in a faded and torn apricot silk.  They had a modern edge and the carved wood insert - OMG so perfect!  Our upholsterers, brothers, were used to handling antiques so I scooped them up.  We had a long history together.  Sadly, in late 2017, one of them lost their battle with cancer and the shop is now closed.  We've had to move on to address our client's needs, but I'm thinking of his family with a heavy heart as we began working with his father, at the start-up of our firm, and know how much they're missing him.  Business IS personal.

I love pieces with a history.  And I love having a history with whom I work.  Before these clients relocated, we finished a guest bedroom by marrying some vintage and new pieces.  This chair is one of a pair I found in one of my special "no-tell" spots.  (Yes, it's sacred time for designers to curate and develop trades sources.)  These happened to come from a well-known family estate and were covered in a faded and torn apricot silk.  They had a modern edge and the carved wood insert - OMG so perfect!  Our upholsterers, brothers, were used to handling antiques so I scooped them up.  We had a long history together.  Sadly, in late 2017, one of them lost their battle with cancer and the shop is now closed.  We've had to move on to address our client's needs, but I'm thinking of his family with a heavy heart as we began working with his father, at the start-up of our firm, and know how much they're missing him.  Business IS personal.

There are stories created because of all of the above.  More of those stories will be shared in the coming weeks and months.

In the end, this is what I know for sure:  (Sorry Oprah, I just had to say it.)  For me, design is both business and personal.  Balancing it requires emotional intelligence, respect - for self and for others, realistic expectations, agility, handkerchiefs, humor, and daily planking. 

I also know this:  I’m ever appreciative of my best clients/vendors/partners.  Thank you for being you and I’ll see everyone, soon!  

All my best! - Wanda